Over these last few weeks I have been asking you to consider the possibility that the accounts of Jesus as recorded by the Gospel writers (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) might in fact be true; the evidence of the effect Jesus had on history certainly gives one sufficient evidence to contemplate.
Here's what we know: Jesus was born among the Jews and he made clear claims to being "one with God," "the Son of God" and, in fact, claimed to be God. (See John 8:58-59 for one clear example of this, clear enough that the religious leaders tried to stone him for blasphemy.)
In "The Quotable Lewis," by Wayne Martindale, C.S. Lewis says, "(These) claims (are) so shocking -- a paradox, and even a horror, which we may easily be lulled into taking too lightly -- that only two views of this man are possible. Either he was a raving lunatic of an unusually abominable type, or else He was and is, precisely what He said. There is no middle way.
"If records make the first hypothesis unacceptable, you must admit the second. And if you do that, all else that is claimed by Christians becomes credible -- that this Man having been killed, was yet alive, and that His death in some manner incomprehensible to human thought, has effected a real change in our relations to (God) and a change in our favor."
In another place he writes, "On the one side clear, definite moral teaching. On the other claims, which, if not true, are those of a megalomaniac, compared with whom Hitler was the most sane and humble of men. There is no halfway house and there is no parallel in other religions.
"If you had gone to Buddha and asked him, 'Are you the son of Bramah?' he would have said, 'My son, you are still in the vale of illusion.' If you had gone to Socrates and asked, 'Are you the son of Zeus?' he would have laughed at you. If you had gone to Mohammed and asked, 'Are you Allah?' he would first have rent his clothes and then cut your head off. If you had asked Confucius, 'Are you heaven?' I think he probably would have replied, 'Remarks which are not in accordance with nature are in bad taste.'
"The idea of a great moral teacher saying what Christ said is out of the question. In my opinion, the only person who can say that sort of thing is either God or a complete lunatic suffering from that form of delusion which undermines the whole mind of man. If you think you are a poached egg, when you are looking for a piece of toast to suit you, you may be sane, but if you think you are God, there is no chance for you.
"We may note in passing that He was never regarded as a mere moral teacher. He did not produce that effect on any of the people who actually met Him. He produced mainly three effects -- Hatred, Terror, Adoration. There was no trace of people expressing mild approval."
Those who desire to interpret Jesus as nothing more than "a good moral teacher" or even another "religious sage" have a real problem: they have to base their acceptance on the evidence of the eyewitnesses, but then they have to turn right around and ignore or deny the clear deity claims these men wrote about.
In short, if you want a Jesus who is a mere man, you have to be intellectually dishonest or at least willing to two-step your way around the facts you don't like.
Do yourself a favor. As we come into the new year, don't accept what I say about Jesus or what anyone else may say for that matter. Get a copy of the Bible in modern English (let me suggest either the New International Version or the New Living Translation for ease of reading), and look at the facts yourself.
Don't let Dan Brown's fiction, "The DaVinci Code," color your thinking. The Gospel accounts are the accounts of eyewitnesses, not fourth century churchmen.
If these accounts are true, don't you think it is important that you know for yourself the claims they make?
John Pearrell is pastor of Gateway Community Church in Covington. For more information, visit the Gateway website at www.gatewaycommunity.org.